A tour with Emek Shaveh

This podcast episode was recorded during a walking tour in Silwan. Archaeologist Yonathan Mizrachi took us on a tour to explain the archaeological site of the City of David. He founded the NGO ‘Emek Shaveh’ to object the use of archaeology as a political tool. Especially in Israel we see that archaeology is used to justify Jewish claims to the land.

Archaeologist Yonathan Mizrachi at the excavations in the ‘City of David’ in Silwan

Silwan and the City of David

The Palestinian village of Silwan is located just south east of the old city of Jerusalem, very close to the Haram al Sharif. It is exactly there that the first remains of Jerusalem were found. This is the site where the first Canaanite town was built. And from this area the city later expanded. The first inhabitants were the Canaanites. They are sometimes referred to as the Jebusites, but this name only exists in the Bible, not in any other source. They settled near the Gihon spring.

While excavating in Silwan, archaeologists found many different layers of civilizations, built on top of each other. One of the findings done by Eilat Mazar, was dated to the 10th century BC and according to the archaeologist it was a wall that was part of a large public building that according to her could have been the palace of David. There is absolutely no consensus among scholars and archaeologists about this, but still the archaeological park is called ‘The City of David”.

At the entrance of the Palestinian village of Silwan, a new Visitor Center was erected, with a look out.  Access to the excavations is free. You can book a tour with the Visitor Center, but that will get you a tour guide with a narrative that supports the Jewish settler movement.

The Visitor Center and the site are not run by the National Parks Authority, they are run by Elad, an Israeli settler organization. They have a clear agenda in that they are trying to take over Palestinian homes.

Settlers taking over in Palestinian neighborhood Silwan

There are two settler organizations that are active in Silwan. Elad is the organization that uses the archaeological site to claim the area based on historical ties.  Further down in Silwan in the Bustan neighborhood Ateret Kohanim is using other methods, like claiming Jewish ownership of houses before 1948.

There are several hundreds of Israeli settlers living in Silwan at the moment. Many Palestinian houses received house demolition orders because the Municipality wants to create a park, just like King David had a big garden around his palace, right in the middle of Silwan.

Palestinian artists painted eyes on the walls in Silwan

Palestinian artists have painted several walls in Silwan with big eyes. Their message to the settlers: we are watching you. We know what you are doing and we are not going to allow you to take over our homes.

Listen to the full podcast episode to learn more from Yonathan Mizrachi and visit their website https://emekshaveh.org/en